Hangry – ‘A state of anger caused by lack of food: hunger causing a negative change in emotional state’
This feeling instantly reminds me of a time after a friend and I had walked from Bristol to Bath (that’s like 5 hours of walking with one shared protein bar between us) to meet friends who forced us to walk around for another 2 hours to find the perfect restaurant. We were happy to eat literally anywhere as long as we could eat fast. l can still remember the uncontrollable annoyance we felt with everyone and everything to the point where we were incapable of speaking for fear of unleashing the wrath of our hanger. Although some people can easily ignore hunger pains, low blood glucose has negative effects on our emotional wellbeing, that can only be repaired by eating. Our brains take up 20% of the glucose energy we consume, so when levels are decreased, the brain doesn’t have enough energy to regulate emotions. Hence, people tend to become irritable and anxious.
In fact research has shown that low blood sugar during hunger is a driving force behind arguments in couples. In a study at Ohio state University, couples were asked to stick pins in a voodoo doll based on how angry they felt with their partner and also record blood glucose levels at the time. After 3 weeks those with lower glucose levels and increased hunger stuck more pins each day than others. Although the use of voodoo dolls is a little too witchcrafty to be reliable a psychological measure, it demonstrates the point that hanger is a valid feeling – hunger modulates emotional responses that can manifest as anger, sadness or anxiety.
The link between food and emotion is nothing groundbreaking, it makes sense that our mood and emotions will become heightened to reinforce food-seeking behaviours and satisfy nutritional needs. However, in a world with intense pressure to be thin and beautiful, our obsession with body image means nutritional needs are often neglected. In ‘The Beauty Myth’, Naomi Wolf wrote that “thirty-three thousand women told American researchers they would rather lose ten to fifteen pounds than achieve any other goal.” Hence, many will ignore the emotional consequences that come with restricted food intake are often overpowered by the desire to lose weight and meet societal expectations. The increase in eating disorders, diets and unrealistic weight loss goals may have contributed to the rise in mental disorders. If feeling hungry for a few hours can make us irrationally angry or pissed off, just imagine the long-term effects of weeks and months of food restriction. I personally think I suffer from hanxiety rather than hanger. At times where I have tried fad diets or ate too little I find I get overly anxious and feel uneasy. I’ve literally found myself panicking about something really irrational like a plane falling out of the sky and crushing me… and only realise that this is completely ridiculous post-feed. The best way I’ve found to combat this is to regularly eat small portions of healthy foods. Annoyingly, the drop in blood sugar can make our body crave high sugary treats but this quick fix will only make our mood worse in the long run. Instead choose real food that is high in nutritious carbohydrates like vegetables or high in natural sugars like fruit. This will prevent drastic fluctuations in blood sugar that result in inevitable crashes.
This recipe for raw chocolate balls is insanely easy and delicious – they have no refined or unnatural sugar and are high in good fats, so is a perfect snack to carry around with you when you feel the hanger building.
1 cup almonds
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
12 pitted dates
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon honey